2020-10-07 13:11:02 UTC
Cynthia Wands > Tommy Rall
Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 12:18 AM
I'm very sorry to share the news that our dear Tommy Rall, died tonight of congestive heart failure around 5:00pm Pacific Time, in Santa Monica, California.
But I want to share with folks here a rather magical story of Tommy's passing. A hospice nurse was by Tommy's bedside and found a box that held the cards and letters that had been sent to him in the last few weeks. She spent the afternoon reading each one to him, and when she finished reading the last one - he peacefully stopped breathing and passed away. She was very moved by the experience and wanted to share that story with the family.
A private service will be held in the future. In the meantime, we have Tommy's dancing and singing and beautiful spirit to remember. Thank you for helping to honor that spirit in these memories.
Ann Miller/Tommy Rall ballet in "Kiss Me Kate"
Bob Fosse/Tommy Rall duet from "My Sister Eileen"
Tommy Rall - barn dance ballet from "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Thomas Edward "Tommy" Rall (born December 27, 1929) is an American ballet dancer, tap dancer and acrobatic dancer who was a prominent featured player in 1950s musical comedies. He later became a successful operatic tenor in the 1960s, making appearances with the Opera Company of Boston, the New York City Opera, and the American National Opera Company.
Life and career
Rall was born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in Seattle. As a child he had a crossed eye which made it hard for him to read books, so his mother enrolled him in dancing classes. In his early years he performed a dance and acrobatic vaudeville act in Seattle theaters and attempted small acting roles.
His family moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, and Rall began to appear in small movie roles. His first film appearance was a short MGM film called Vendetta. He began taking tap dancing lessons and became a member of the jitterbugging Jivin' Jacks and Jills at Universal Studios.
Rall joined Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and Shirley Mills in several light wartime Andrews Sisters vehicles including Give Out, Sisters (1942) Get Hep to Love (1942) Mister Big, and others. He appeared in the films The North Star and Song of Russia (1944).
Rall took ballet lessons and danced in classical and Broadway shows, including Milk and Honey, Call Me Madam and Cry for Us All. Jerry Herman said of Rall in Milk and Honey: "[Donald] [Saddler] did extraordinary choreography for Tommy Rall, who was suddenly so admired by the audience that [the producer] put his name on the marquee under the three stars. It was very, very earned by him. He was a terrific singer and dancer."
He is best known for his acrobatic dancing in several classic musical films of the 1950s, including Kiss Me, Kate as "Bill" (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as "Frank" (1954), Invitation to the Dance (1956), Merry Andrew as "Giacomo Gallini" (1958), and My Sister Eileen as "Chick" (1955).
Rall's film career waned as movie musicals went into decline. He had a role in the movie Funny Girl, as "The Prince" in a parody of the ballet Swan Lake. On Broadway he danced to acclaim as "Johnny" in Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein's 1959 musical Juno (based on Seán O'Casey's play Juno and the Paycock). Ken Mandelbaum wrote: "DeMille provided two fine ballets: her second act 'Johnny' in which Tommy Rall danced out Johnny's emotions...was the evening's highlight."
He took the title role in a production of Massenet's Le Jongleur de Notre Dame by the New England Opera Theatre in Boston in 1961 in a role which required both singing and juggling and dancing.
Rall was highly respected by his contemporaries—including dance greats Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor—with the latter describing Rall as one of the “greatest dancers living...above Astaire and Kelly.”
Rall was briefly married to his Juno co-star, Monte Amundsen. He is now married to former ballerina Karel Shimoff.
In 2007, a dance instructor by the name of Fredric Brame was found to have been posing as Tommy Rall since the late 1960s. His biographies, resumes, and playbills all support that Brame was Fredric Brame aka Tommy Rall by the credits listed. When Rall found out about the masquerade decades later, through a friend of the family, Rall contacted the Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff's office. No legal action was taken against Brame since he technically did not commit a crime. Rall only wanted Brame to stop taking credit for his work and if he continued or did it again a lawsuit would be filed.